“You're only as good as your last game,” is a phrase many in the soccer industry hear far too often. But in the case of Montreal’s new midfielder Calum Mallace that game had to be – and was – a pretty good one.
The No.20 pick at this year’s SuperDraft was considered a steal by many expert observers, as his performance in the final game of the MLS Combine showed. His stock rose throughout the event, most notably when he scored a beautiful curling goal from outside the box in a 4-1 adiPower win against adiPure in his third and final game.
Montreal sporting director Nick De Santis certainly sat up and took notice. He revealed after the draft that the Impact bosses had Mallace going at No. 11 and were very surprised he was still available when their turn came up in the second round. Even Mallace’s coach at Marquette, Louis Bennett, was adamant that his former Golden Eagles star should have gone sooner.
“Montreal had a great draft – goodness me, a Generation adidas player like [Andrew Wenger] and Mallace? I was hugely surprised,” Bennett told MLSsoccer.com. “I believe there were a couple of teams that are very disappointed they didn’t get [Mallace]. Athletically, he’s a good specimen, especially as a transitional midfield player. He’s got good skills on the ball and a no-nonsense attitude. When he needs to knock people around, he knocks people around.”
A native of Torphichen, Scotland, the tough-tackling midfielder spent half his life engulfed in rich soccer heritage. Mallace concedes that living in a country where soccer is the No. 1 sport helped give him the drive and hunger to force his way onto the scene at the MLS Combine. That passion did not go unnoticed among the Impact staff.
“I spent countless hours in the back garden kicking the ball around,” Mallace recalls. “My older brother actually played professional for two years and he was a role model to me. And my dad’s been unbelievable. He comes to every game and supports me all he can. He wants me to succeed on the field, but he also encouraged me to get my degree [in broadcasting]. If something happens, I want to stay in soccer, maybe commentating on games or something.”
Bennett praised Mallace’s hard-working qualities on the field, but he lauded Mallace's work in the classroom, too. Mallace pushed hard to make his dream of being a professional a reality sooner rather than later.
“He always had, in the back of his mind, a schoolboy dream of becoming a professional,” Bennett said. “Because of that, he decided to graduate in three-and-a-half years, whereas a typical Marquette student graduates in four-and-a-half. Every summer, Calum was at Marquette, studying. Graduating that fast is very difficult here.”
For the time being, the former Marquette No. 10 is fully committed to showing the Montreal fans a seamless mixture of Scottish and American play, as the former Chicago Fire Premier PDL player seeks to use lessons learned in both countries to dominate in Canada.
“As a Scot, there’s my heart and my determination to fight for every ball, as well as the fact I hate to lose more than I want to win," Mallace said. "My American side is more about playing smart, knowing when to make short or long runs, using my vision.”